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EPA meeting will change nothing

GOV. Earl Ray Tomblin and the West Virginia delegation emerged from the White House meeting with EPA Administrator Gina Mc-Carthy sounding optimistic.

Tomblin said McCarthy promised to look into the issues raised by the West Virginians about the economic impacts on the coal industry and the state of EPA regulations and enforcement.

"That is the most positive thing I've heard out of the EPA since I've been governor," Tomblin said.

True enough, but that's not saying much.

The West Virginia Coal Association says it remains extremely time consuming and costly to get a new mine permit or to expand an existing site. The industry complains the EPA continually drags out the process, and compliance with one permit change leads to another and another.

I'm told by an industry official of a permit application that's gone on for nearly seven years at a cost of $4.2 million. It's possible, though not probable, that following the Washington meeting the EPA will take a more reasonable approach to permitting.

Those buoyed by the gathering are hanging at least some of their hope on reopening the channels of communication with the EPA. Well, the Obama administration and the EPA have already communicated their intentions clearly, even if McCarthy chose her words more carefully during the meeting.

The day before, McCarthy told an audience at Harvard that fighting climate change remains a top priority, and one that trumps economic concerns.

"Can we stop talking about environmental regulations killing jobs, please? Just at least for today," she said.

That's an easier sell in Boston than in Boone County.

McCarthy has made clear she has her marching orders from her boss on climate change.

"We have no choice," she said. "That's what the president said. He's my boss; you're going to have to live with it."

Indeed Obama did send down the thunder. In a speech earlier this summer at Georgetown University, the president invoked the Founders, kids, astronauts, mother earth, myriad straw man arguments and healthy doses of hyperbole to state his mission.

"So today, for the sake of our children and the health and safety of all Americans, I'm directing the Environmental Protection Agency to put an end to the limitless dumping of carbon pollution from our power plants, and complete new pollution standards for both new and existing power plants," the president said.

Sorry, I'm not getting the "let's talk" vibe here.

It's a good thing that West Virginia leaders were able to sit down with McCarthy yesterday.

That can't hurt.

But the direction this administration is headed on coal has been made abundantly clear many times, and no meeting with concerned folks from West Virginia is going to change that.

Kercheval is host of TalkLine, broadcast by the MetroNews Statewide Radio Network from 10 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday. The show can be heard locally on WCHS 580 AM.


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